There has been a lot going on in my life at the moment and writing is not taking a high priority. In fact talking to some crafy people yesterday we realised that with knitting, croquet, felting, etc you have to fully concentrate on what you are doing. You might be able to watch a TV box set if you’re good but otherwise it is just you and the knitting, or whatever. I find the same with horse riding. That is the place where all I can think about is what I’m doing riding wise. It clears my head but I cannot ride for more than an hour or two a week – can’t afford it and physically it would be exhausting!!! But with writing you are using that part of your brain that “chatters”. So stilling the chattering chimp mind is close to impossible. So when life sends it’s challenges yes there is journalling but actually keeping with the “project”, as least for me, became impossible.
So why did I enter this competition? Because I am trying to set myself a challenge of getting a piece polished a month. But also this was something I clearly remembered. I was eight. So it is one of the early memories, but it is also cluttered up with the realisation, as a child, that all in the garden wasn’t rosy. I have written a much longer piece which you can find at Dorset – 21st July 1969
Here is the piece I won with:
A bungalow in Dorset, Monday 21st July 1969
Breakfast was eaten in silence. He was at his place at the table. She was on the couch watching reruns of “one small step for man” on the colour TV. He left for work and took one giant leap over the flower beds to his car.
If you compare the two pieces you will see how much has changed to take it from around 400 words to 50. But, for me, it has kept the essence of a moment.
It will be published by http://www.museumofwalking.org.uk around about 1st October. Check out their site and maybe even buy a copy? Also keep an eye out for other flash fiction competitions on the website.
I have just finished reading a really good trilogy, who’s only fault was that each book was 8-900 pages long. So for the last month I suppose I have been hanging out with these characters and so I am missing them today. The trilogy is The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. Well worth giving a month to.
There are many bits where the books really spoke to me. One part is where one of the ships talks about attempting to take his own life. (The ships are made of a wood that makes them alive, able to talk, think, have minds of their own, and have memories of those who have lived and died on them – can’t say much more or it would spoil the books). Anyway the woman talking to him says “how could you hate yourself and the world so much to want to take your life?” And he replies that all he wanted to do was to take the pain away. That really helped me to understand why those we loved took their own lives. It was because the pain was too much. There was nothing we could have done to stop that.
But then later in the book one of the main characters is dealing with the pain of having been raped and it is stopping her from giving herself fully to the man she is meant to be with. Her ship says to her “give me the pain. I will not take the memories of what happened but I will take your pain.” She does wrestle with him about this but eventually gives her pain to him, is able to tell her man about the rape and her heart is more open and able to cope.
I believe this is what Jesus asks of us and what I believe I have done without realising it,
to give the pain of what we have walked through to him. It won’t make those memories go. It won’t make us wary in similar situations. It won’t even “cure” our mental health problems. But it will make us be able to look clearly at what we have gone through and say “this is what happened to me.” I think we are often afraid to give that pain to Jesus because we are afraid that he will take our memories and that what happened to us will not be validated. That if we continue to hold the pain of what we have endured – be it rape, abandonment, seeing someone we love taken from us, and many many more things that escape me at this hour of the morning – then we will keep knowing how awful it was. That if we let go of the pain we may forget a loved one who has gone, forget a incident that actually has made us wiser now, will forget all that we have been through. This is NOT true. Jesus does not want to take our memories. In fact earlier in the story it is revealed that the ship did try to take the memories of one of the main characters but this then stopped him from being able to fully give himself to others. He was holding something back and often that was because he did not want to look at the memory because he was holding both the memory and the pain, and the pain totally overrode everything else – including his judgement of situations.
Giving our pain to Jesus is an on-going thing. Often when we remember things the pain will flair up again so we need to give it again. Very often it is not a once and forever thing. If we have lost someone dear to us through an untimely death there will be many times when the memories of them come with searing pain and that is when we pass on that pain.
Jesus died on the cross to take our pain as much as he did anything else. By taking away that pain it gives us resurrection. According to the Anglican and Catholic church calendars we are in that period between Easter and Pentecost and it is a time to reflect on resurrection. I was at a wedding of my dear friend who’s first husband committed suicide and during her talk the vicar said that this was my friend and her new husband’s resurrection time and that it was significant that they were marrying just after Easter. It’s true. She can now give her pain to Jesus, keep her memories of her first husband, but open up into the new life she has said yes to. And yes I weep through writing this because I have my own pain with it too. I can only give my own pain to Jesus again and again. I will still have the memories not only of the times when he was alive and the crazy things we all did together but also the memories of the fateful day and the aftermath of it. But they can be viewed as memories and a constant giving to Jesus of the pain.
“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) is not some fully leaping around
being happy stuff but a joy that settles deep, pervades one’s whole being and, I believe, comes from knowing that you can give your pain to Jesus, walk free from it, and yet still know what happened. It is a full and rich joy of living free from pain but of a life filled with memories which in turn guide and strengthen your future.
It’s not just the blossom on the trees or the bud of new leaves, the singing of the birds chatting each other up or the primroses appearing, the clocks changing or it feeling warmer. The caravans have started to arrive in the caravan park I walk the dog past and the small animal zoo has opened again. Life is springing up all around.
But also I still see the remains of Storm Doris and the destruction she caused. The fallen tree I still have to climb over, the branches scattered in the park, the red tape around the trees made dangerous by the storm. It reminds me of my life. There are so many new and exciting things going on here. The doors that are opening
are amazing and I am using my degree to its limits with the projects I am becoming a part of – both paid and voluntary. But there is still in my life the remnants of the storms that I have endured; a missing person here that I’d like to tell, a reason why we’re living here not somewhere else, the pains, stresses, and sadnesses that I carry even though this glorious awakening.
It does feel like spring has come to my life with the workshops, the projects, the challenges of different cultures with the Airbnb. I can truly see our vision coming to life and it is amazing. But there are times when I wonder why I feel sad and low and then remind myself of the storms that have passed through. At times it feels like they block my path and slow me down and that the climb over them is too hard. But climb over I do because the openings and new growth that are happening in my life are too good to stay and dwell on the storm. But as I acknowledge the fallen tree and step over it and walk around the scattered branches so I must acknowledge what has gone on and not try to walk as though it is all as it was.
For the land this spring is different because of the destruction that passed through but it will rise into new growth and so will I.
Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again – at least for me for now.
Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?
As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.
Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂
So I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂
One good reason is that he gets me for an owner but the real reason I would love to be my dog is the fact that he seems able to forget the horrid things in his life. I know there are dogs that are traumatised when they are puppies that do appear to remember those things and behave sometimes badly because of it. But Renly was treated well in those early years and seems to be very chilled because of it.
Yesterday he had an incident with a very large, very hairy black Alsation. The dog went for him and at one point appeared to have his jaws around Renly’s middle. The dog then let him go. Renly ran to me and I was able to grab the dog by the collar and scruff of the neck. Renly and I then went briskly down to the beach where I tried all sorts to get him to come to me so I could feel him all over to check he was ok. He wouldn’t come to me and kept running away with his tail between his legs and almost glaring at me. He only let me touch him when we saw a lady we had met before. He then sat at her feet and let her stroke him then let me stroke him. He seemed back to his chirpy self then.
Today i was nervous of going to the beach because of this dog but also because I was
concerned that Renly would react badly and be scared. I made sure we were a bit later so we wouldn’t bump into them. But you would have thought the incident had never happened. Renly showed no signs of fear or even slight anxiety.
He has a great memory. In fact just before the incident yesterday he had run to a lady he gets treats from. Today she was later and so Renly set off to get his treat and to play with her dog. In fact he remembers all the people who give him treats and will run up to them, often leaving me a way behind. And the other day we had friends come to visit and he loves their dog but they hadn’t seen each other for 8 months , and in a totally different place, but Renly recognised her and greeted her with such enthusiasm. He remembers key people in his life even if he hasn’t seen them for ages. He seems able to tell with my children that they are family and the boyfriends/girlfriends they bring he isn’t so close to. Yes he is warm and friendly because he’s that sort of dog but his greetings are very different.
So yes I want to be my dog. To be able to remember the good things in life and forget the bad. To be able to not get phased by something that happened once but to be able to let it go and to continue to enjoy the good things in life – which for him are treats, hugs, beach, car and family. Simple life!
This is inspired by a comment from a group we have been invited to, which meet on a Thursday evening just round the corner from our house.
We had been reading John 17, about how Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples before he died and a discussion about evangelising followed. Some in the group are definitely evangelists. Me, I’m not really. My evangelism comes from blog posts like this that question things and, hopefully by my life and the way I’ve hung on in there with God through what has gone on. I’m not one to go out and tell people I meet about Jesus. I admire people who do though.
So the discussion has got on to evangelising and someone said “we need to be like a light on a hill. Let our light shine” and then they said “and die to self” and that is what struck me. If we die to ourselves, to our own wants, needs, expectations, even wanting to see others come to know Jesus, then we can truly shine. We can stop doing things because we want some form of recognition or someone to fulfil our needs.
But also in this chapter Jesus prayed that people would know his followers by their love for each other. And it was this that struck me – I can only really truly love someone if I die to myself and my needs, wants, likes and dislikes. If I die to myself then I can love people who are not like me, who are not people I would normally want to be seen with, etc.
It was was interesting because we were all moving into the whole thing of just having a bit of moan about church organisation, and about hurts we had sustained within churches, and just almost saying how we would do it better. Though there were times when it was “let’s not talk about them but about us” which was good. And in fact I should bring it closer; “let’s not talk about us but about me.” Yes I know we need to stop looking at what Jesus did as individual salvation and much more about corporate salvation but actually I can only change me and how I look at the world, how I react to the world. So if I die to self and then love others unconditionally there is much more of a chance of me being able to look at things corporately because I will no longer worry about whether someone in my “pack” does something I will be embarrassed about.
In fact if I “die to self” I will be able to be comfortable in who I am, what I believe, etc and will not worry about the God other believe in. As Karen Armstrong says in “History of God” we do all actually believe in a different God. That is not to say God is made up but because He is multifaceted we all all see Him slightly differently. But if I am too concerned about how someone else sees God then actually I have not died to self because in fact, deep inside, I am worried about what others thinks. If I have died to self I can let others believe in God how He has revealed Himself to them, which will be different to how He has revealed Himself to me – and you know, that’s ok.
So to be that light on the hill means to be totally transparent, to let the Light of God shine in and through me. It will mean I will care for others as God cares for them which i
s often in a very different way to how I would care/love them.
I love the sunrise. I love taking photos of it. Yes I do take photos of sunsets too. In fact my lovely study room faces the setting sun and I have taken photos from here. But I love the sunrise. I find now, as the days get longer, that I miss out on the sun rising because it all happens too early. Though there are times that I get up to go to the bathroom and see an orange glow. Then I will go into the back bedroom, if we have no one staying there, and watch the back of the house get bathed in the golden light. Even Tesco’s carpark looks beautiful as the sun comes up.
I remember the first sunrise I ever saw. It was 1982 and I was at Greenham Common. I had gone up with a couple of car loads of women from the town I lived in to meet up on a big protest day with women from across the country. It was a surreal time. Anyway we were sleeping in this huge marquee and I couldn’t sleep so I got up and went to the camp fire. There as I sat trying to work out if I like drinking tea or not the sun started to rise. It was a clear sky and slowly it was filled with this glowing ball. I remember the only sound was the birds chatting excitedly at the start of a new day.
And that is how I feel when I see the sun come up; that it is exciting to start a new day. I
take photographs of sunrises because for me there is so much promise in a sunrise. It marks the start of something new. The darkness of night has gone and it is a walking into the light. There is promise, potential, hope, expectation, a new beginning. For me, no matter what I know I have to do, the sunrise always says “today is a fresh canvass go paint something new.” So that is why I take photographs of the sun rising and why I love the start of a day.
My husband on the other hand is a sunset man. He loves to watch the sun go down. For him it signals that the day has past and he has survived. Interesting how we are so different.